As Hurricane Florence heads towards the east coast, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Monday morning that she had signed an Executive Order declaring a State of Emergency in the District, effective immediately.
The storm is expected to reach land by Thursday evening, bringing with it winds in excess of 39 mph and torrential rains by the time it impacts DC. Director of DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) Chris Rodriguez said that torrential rains were expected to begin Thursday night or Friday morning and continue for three or four days. The amount of rainfall depends on if Florence lingers over the Carolinas, a scenario that has a 45% likelihood according to the models.
Bowser said events scheduled for this weekend, including the H Street Festival and Fiesta DC, will be rescheduled for reasons of safety, with dates to be announced.
Rodriguez said the rains could result in localized and surge flooding, particularly in low-lying areas, as well as downed trees and power outages. He said that he was in constant contact with National Park Service (NPS) monitoring water levels downtown, and that HSEMA would have sufficient notice to raise the 17th Street levee if necessary. Raising the levee takes four hours to complete, Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez reminds residents not to stand, walk or drive in moving water. “Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and just 1 foot of water can sweep a moving vehicle away,” Rodriguez said at a press conference at Engine Company 16 (1018 13 St NW) with Bowser and directors of District agencies and utilities.
Flooding is likely in low-lying areas such as Old Town Alexandria and Georgetown, but also in areas along the Anacostia River, including parts of Southwest andThe Wharf DC, where construction is underway on the second phase of the development. DC Water reported that flooding has already occurred at Yards Park after heavier-than-expected rainfall on Friday.
One of the greater threats to Hill residents is localized flooding due to blocked or overwhelmed catch basins, the 25,000 drainage openings on city streets, said DC Water spokesperson Vince Morris. A team of 500 emergency personnel stands ready to be deployed to assist in clearing blockages throughout the city. “But constant rainfall could overwhelm the system,” causing local flooding, Morris cautioned. Residents are encouraged to report blocked catch basins and drainage problems to DC Water at 202-612-3400.
Pepco President and CEO David Valezquez said the company was in full preparation mode, activating emergency personnel and emergency management plans, including scheduling 24-hour coverage for the weekend. 600 linespeople and 150 tree personnel will be on staff to deal with downed power lines and falling trees. In addition, Valezquez said additional personnel will be travelling to the area from the company’s offices in Chicago and Philadelphia later this week. Valezquez reminded residents not to approach downed wires but to contact Pepco at 1-877 PEPC 62 or via their mobile app or web site.
At press time, DC Public Schools (DCPS) said that they were working with the Mayor’s Office and agency partners to monitor the weather.
The path and impact of Hurricane Florence may change and is being constantly monitored as it moves closer to landfall. Residents are encouraged to stay informed via the District’s Emergency Alert system.
Mayor Bowser and Director Rodriguez encouraged residents to:
- Sign up for emergency text alerts at alerts.dc.gov
- Reach out to friends, family and neighbors to help them sign up for alerts
- Go to the grocery store
- Check emergency first aid kit
- Fill prescriptions to the end of next week
- Determine what medical devices, prescriptions require power or refrigeration and develop a plan
- Charge all mobile devices and back-up power sources
- Acquire flashlights, batteries
- Review your family’s emergency plan
For tips on coping with emergencies, visit the HSEMA website at https://hsema.dc.gov/